Friday, October 17, 2014

Improving Access: Case Study of the Jasho Letu Bio-Centre

Impact of the Kopo Kopo Cashless Payment System 

When asked about how the Jasho Letu bio-centre has impacted his life, Kibera resident Morris Odoyo said, “I feel better about this. There are less flying toilets.” Created in 2007, Jasho Letu offers both daily and monthly payment for use of its toilets and cold showers. One time use of the toilet and shower cost 5 and 10 shillings respectively, while monthly use costs 150 shillings. In addition to the bio-centre’s 15 monthly clients, one-time use patrons bring in about 7,000 shillings a week.

One factor attributing to its success is the introduction of a cashless payment system that allows for both mobile payment and electronic transfer of cash transactions. This open-loop platform—called Kopo Kopo—allows customers to pay for bio-centre services using Safaricom’s M-PESA service to top-up credit on their mobile phone. With M-PESA, customers can immediately pay for bio-centre amenities and are not charged any additional fees; rather, Jasho Letu is charged 1% lumpsum each time the Kopo Kopo transactions are settled to their bank account.

The Kopo Kopo system also allows caretakers to electronically submit, transfer, and record cash payments with the M-PESA mobile wallet platform. Both Kopo Kopo payment methods, mobile and cash, improve accountability and record-keeping for the bio-centre, as the caretaker is responsible for significantly less records. Bernice Mmboga, the caretaker of the Jasho-Letu bio-centre, said that the Kopo Kopo system “makes it easier.” “I had to get used to it,” she says, “but it’s progressively improved.” According to Bernice, it was “difficult” and time-consuming to keep handwritten records of every bio-centre transaction. Now she is accountable for significantly less records, as bio-centre traffic and payment is automatically and electronically recorded.

One Jasho Letu member, David Kihara, says he has seen an improvement in not only recordkeeping but also number of bio-centre patrons. Although he notes that most still use cash, Kihara says that the number of customers has increased thanks to the M-PESA option. Kihara attributes the improvement to M-PESA’s “wide reach.” In 2013 alone there were 17 million M-PESA users in Kenya, many of which live in informal settlements like Kibera. Because many community members already use M-PESA, paying for bio-centre services is simple.

Kihara further notes that he has also seen an improvement in the actual receiving of funds accumulated from Kopo Kopo. For about a month now Jasho Letu has been using their own Jasho Letu Kopo Kopo till number to accept payment. Previously there was a delay in the distribution of money, as the bio-centre was using Umande Trust’s till number. But with their own till number, Jasho Letu receives payments promptly.

Another major success of the Jasho Letu bio-centre is the sale of cooking fuel. Jasho Letu currently sells ethanol for 87 shillings per litre, offering a sustainable, inexpensive, and healthier alternative to charcoal. “It has been very nice,” remarks Kihara. He notes that because customers often must travel to reach the bio-centre, many prefer not to use its community cookers. There has been “a very good response” to the ethanol, according to Kihara, who comments that the fuel “cooks in a shorter time and lasts longer.”

Evidently both the Kopo Kopo cashless payment system and the sale of biogas have led Jasho Letu’s bio-centre to go above and beyond water & sanitation. Along with the cashless payment systems and biogas, Jasho Letu’s 2nd floor community center provides space for community collaboration or entertainment. Community based organizations have a space for meeting, and football fans have a safe opportunity to watch sports. Jasho Letu hosts football viewings for 20 shillings a game. According to Odoyo, it’s his “favorite” part of the bio-centre. “It’s safe, I do not have to walk far at night,” he states. And Odoyo is not the only person benefiting from the Jasho Letu bio-centre; there are many more, and the numbers are growing.

Written by: Sarah Snead

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